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Museum : Optigan Room : Music Maker 35002

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. Optigan Instruments
Music Maker 35002

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Music Maker 35002

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. Manufacturer:
The Optigan Corp., then later Mattel as the "Optigon"

Music Maker 35002

Production period:

Quantity produced:

William Blakeney's - Music Maker 35002

Famous Fingers
Who played this instrument?

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Optigan Music Maker 35002

above photo from the collection of Joseph Rivers, Audio Playground, Orlando, FL

other synths in the Audio Playground Collection

"The Optigan Music Maker. The most revolutionary musical instrument ever. Because it's EVERY musical instrument. And every combination. You've never heard anything like it because there's never been anything like it. And you have all the talent you need in your little finger to play the OPTIGAN. The "soul" of the OPTIGAN is the Music Program Disc. Organs try to mimic or imitate different musical sounds. But with the OPTIGAN you actually play the real sounds of pianos, banjos, guitars, marimbas, drums and dozens more. The sounds are on the Programs. You choose the sounds you want -to play the songs you want- on our piano-style keyboard and left-hand accompaniment panel. And you choose from Classic guitar to old time Banjo Sing-Along to Nashville Country to Rock and Roll. It all depends on the Program and there's a Program for every musical taste."----from the Optigan Owner's Manual .

"This is what the Optigan Corporation thought of their organ in 1970. So what is it really? It is an ugly plastic (Optigan calls it 'Temperite') organ. The way it makes sounds is by putting in these clear plastic records about the size of a regular LP. The plastic discs have the waveforms on them and are read by a light bar reader inside the organ. Each 'piano-style' key, chord button and effect switch has one waveform on the disc. Mostly, the right hand plays pretty unspectacular organ sounds; a few disks have marimba, but it's pretty weak. The best part of the Optigan is the chord button/special effect section. When you press A minor on a regular organ, you hear an A minor chord. On the Optigan, you hear a whole band; so Nashville Country is drums, bass, rhythm guitar all vamping 4 bars in A minor; Polynesian Village has bongos, vibes and howling monkeys, Hear and Now sounds like the Partridge Family minus the singing. So, basically the Optigan is like a Mellotron aimed at the Grandma market. It sounds very high tech and I suppose it was for 1970, but somehow the resulting sound can not really adequately be described; 'cheesy', 'hilarious' and 'sounds like a 78 record' are comments I've heard.

"For an idea of what the Optigan sounds like, listen to 'Beautiful World' on 'Devo's EZ Listening Disc'; the banjos, bass and washboard percussion are all the Optigan playing the wonderful 'Banjo Sing-Along' disc. Tom Waits used an Optigan on 'Frank's Wild Years', but he didn't use the accompaniments, just the cheesy organ tones. The only other artist that I know of that's released an album with the Optigan is Steve Fisk on his '448 Deathless Days'. He really does all the fun things you can do with an Optigan on that album. Put a disc in upside down and you have the whole accompaniment section playing backwards, but still in tune. As Mark Mothersbaugh [of DEVO] said 'The banjo disc makes these great sucking noises when put in upside down.' You can put in two discs at once and have the Bluegrass mandolins playing with the Gospel Rock rhythm section; not very musical but great if you like Stockhausen.

"Probably the main reason the Optigan never made it real big is that it is mechanical and not very stable. Speeding up the tempo also raises all the tunings. Even if you don't touch the tempo control the tuning does drift quite a bit. The Optigan always stays in tune with itself, but good luck playing with anyone else.

"The Optigan color scheme is ugly brown with ugly tan; the 'piano-style' keys have brown sharp keys. There were apparently four models. One of them has two 7" speakers, the other has reverb and two 15" speakers. It is unknown what the other two have. Some Optigans have a matching bench. Optigan also put out its own music books arranged especially for the Optigan, even telling you what discs to use for each song. This is handy because the chord buttons are: Major, Minor and Diminished (instead of something useful like Maj.7th.). The light bulb inside the Optigan (needed for the light bar reader) is easily found at most stores. Mechanically, they are very simple, so if you see one that doesn't work, you could probably fix it."----Robert Schmeltzer

Here is a partial list of Optigan disks that were available:

  • Banjo Sing-Along
  • Big Band Beat
  • Big Organ and Drums
  • Big Top Marching Band
  • Bluegrass Banjo
  • Bossa Nova Style
  • Cha Cha Cha!
  • Classic Guitar
  • Dixieland Strut
  • Easy Does It With Vibes
  • Folk & Other Moods-Guitar
  • Gay 90's Waltz (6/8 time)
  • Gospel Rock
  • Guitar Boogie
  • Guitar in 3/4 Time
  • Hear and Now
  • Latin Fever
  • Majestic Pipe Organ
  • Movin'!
  • Nashville Country
  • Organ Sing-Along
  • Polynesian Village
  • Pop Piano Plus Guitar
  • Rock and Rhythm
  • Rollin' Easy
  • Romantic Strings (in 3/4 Time)
  • Singing Rhythm
  • The Blues-Sweet and Low
  • Waltz Time (3/4 Time)

Famous Fingers
Who Played This Instrument?

Devo"Beautiful World" on "Devo's EZ Listening Disc", Steve Fisk - on his "448 Deathless Days", Mitchell Froom, Steve Hackett, Brian Kehew and Roger Manning of The Moog Cookbook, The Pendulum Floors -throughout their album "A Kicking Good Time With The Pendulum Floors," which was released in 1997 on Villa Villakula Records, Tom Waits - on "Frank's Wild Years"

[Let us know if you have any further additions to this list.]

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